Lions, Why I Write

Original Photo by author, taken in South Africa

Lions, Why I Write

We all have things we know we should do, yet we procrastinate, make excuses, ignore the signs, and rationalize. This blog held the number one spot on my list of things I did not want to do. I wanted to write a book. Not at first, not until my sister encouraged me to record my faith experiences. After I agreed, she regaled me with stories of famous authors, like Beatrix Potter and her marvelous book Peter Rabbit - a rags to riches story. My heart and mind filled with grandiose dreams of writing a national best seller, accompanied by fantasies about who would be cast in the movie.

However, as any writer knows, penning a best selling novel is hard work - doubly hard, nearly impossible, when you are writing for all the wrong reasons. Fame and Fortune are at the top of that list. A well-told story materializes from a compelling plot and mesmerizing prose. It is not created without practice or study.  Although I did well in my high school creative writing classes, I struggled with this endeavor and on more than one occasion, I threw the manuscript in the drawer, and vowed never to touch it again. Who cared about the national best seller or the seeing the story portrayed on the Big Screen. The next day, reverberating with fresh inspiration and enthusiasm, I dug the pages out and went back to work.

This cycle of inspiration and discouragement continued for years. One of the more memorable occasions centered on the spelling of the Biblical name, Melchizedek. I did not want to go through the effort to look it up and I used it as an excuse not to write about the improbable incident revolving around the name. People would laugh and scoff. No one would believe me, so why bother. I threw the manuscript into the same a drawer as before, and walked away. A huge burden lifted - until the next morning.

The name, Melchizedek, appeared three times in my devotions, Hebrews 5: 6-10. Three times. With my head bowed in submission, I pulled the manuscript out of the drawer.

Again, the flesh overpowered the spirit. Disgusted and disheartened, I threw the entire volume out – literally – out of the house, and I hoped out of my life. The very next morning while paging from one listed reading to another, my bible fell open to Daniel 14:42.

Then the king said: Let all the inhabitants of the whole earth fear the God of Daniel: for he is the Savior working signs and wonders in the earth: who hath delivered Daniel out of the lions' den.

Good for Daniel. I did not see any relevance to me, at least not enough to pay any special attention.

I listened to a pastoral program during my commute.  That morning the program started with a reference to Peter Capstick’s book, Death in the Long Grass – the very book Bill suggested I read before we went to Africa. It detailed stories of marauding lions - man-eaters - throughout the history of the continent. Lions - again.

The pastor went on to mention the story of Colonel Patterson and the lions of Tsavo, made famous by the movie, The Ghost and The Darkness. Bill and I owned two copies, we each had a copy before we met, and was one of the first we watched together.

The coincidences continued with additional comments regarding the song, The Lion Sleeps Tonight. On our wedding night, a group of four young men serenaded our table during dinner at the Safari Lodge in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. That song was included in their repertoire. As if pre-arranged and right on cue, wild lions roared from just outside the compound - forever fixing the song in my memory.

Lastly, the pastor quoted verses from the book of Daniel, particularly Daniel in the lions’ den. Lions, lions, lions. I didn't get it.

Flipping through TV channels that evening I encountered a documentary on the History Channel: the fall of Babylon from Biblical prophesies, including the book of Daniel. So, what was so all fired important about Daniel?

The next morning the pastoral radio program opened with these words, “I’ll tell you what is so important about Daniel…”

I turned the volume up. I did not want to miss a single word.

“…Daniel was a very spiritual man and because of his beliefs he worked hard at every task he was assigned. He was also a man of integrity and honesty. These virtues, not his spirituality, advanced him up through the Babylonian court to a place of immense power and influence. You too will be referred to a higher status because of your virtues - if you follow Daniel’s example.

“Second, it is your job to spread God’s word. As is evidenced by the great stories in the bible, sharing stories, yours, as well as others, can bring people to God.”

I think sweat actually trickled down the back of my neck.

My Doubting Thomas still refused to believe the coincidences contained a personal message. God didn't really mean me, did He? 

The next morning a young mountain lion ran across the road in front of my car. I weighed the odds of that happening in our large subdivision. I was back at the computer that evening.   

Surely those incidents were enough to keep me motivated, but time erodes the memory and allows doubt to crowd out conviction. I quit again, this time during Holy Week.

A series of bizarre incidents began with a recommended novel, Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. The first few coincidences did not spark anything but a nod - until they kept accumulating. 

The song When You Wish Upon A Star  was mentioned. My alarm plays that song. Next the Oregon woods were mentioned – where I spent my childhood. Odd Thomas's landlady lost her husband in 2001 – the same year I lost my third husband.  The suspected bad guy banked at the same bank I just started working at. Odd's girl friend was called by a nickname, Stormy, but her real name was Bronwen. A new coworker was named Bronwyn.

 Stormy’s apartment was decorated with Maxfield Parrish prints. The book my sister gave me after my third husband died – in 2001 – was a book of Maxfield Parish prints, coupled with the verses from Some Where Over the Rainbow. 

There was still more. The MSN headline for that Thursday, Holy Thursday, was the Pennsylvania lottery. The jackpot was 7.77 million. The winning ticket was 7-7-7-7. The two added together equaled 7 sevens, a number significant to me because of previous miracles and divine confirmations. 

Now, back to Odd Thomas. A close friend of the protagonist encourages the hero to write, write, write. The significance for me was the number of repetitions -three.  However, in spite of all of these oddities, I decided it was only a series of bizarre coincidences, which I could ignore - until my phone rang.

I do not answer calls on my cell phone while at work, and all of my friends and family know this. Yet, at one-thirty pm on Good Friday, my phone rang. No one, except me, could hear the muffled ring from inside my purse, tucked inside a drawer, so I just let it ring. Curiosity spurred a quick peek at the number.  I did not recognize it.  Intrigued, I ran a Google search. The wrong number originated from an address on Pico Street. The city in the Dean Koontz book is Pico Mundo. I needn't describe my reaction to that, but for those of you who aren't sure, I was at the computer that evening.

The following morning, Good Saturday, Matthew 10:27 was among my listed devotions: What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 

L.B. Cowman's Streams in the Desert had this: We are not to linger in the darkness or stay in the closet. 


And so, I write, no preaching, theorizing or postulating, no grand ideas of best sellers or gripping cinematic scenes, just stories from which the reader can draw their own conclusions. I still have moments of anxiety, and doubt. Not everyone will believe or understand everything I write, and I think of quitting - until the phone rings, or lions mysteriously appear in various forms. Then, like Jonah in the belly of the whale, I restart my journey across Nineveh, sitting at the computer, typing away.

2 comments:

  1. This is a confirmation of the book I read this summer A Million Little Ways - uncover the art you were made to live, by Emily P Freeman, I am so glad you have uncovered your art and were obedient. I also read yesterday that Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65 when she wrote the Little House on the Prairie series, which I was reading to my son. God has His time for each of us to share our art, if we would only be obedient.

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  2. I know, Janette. We will be happy when we do His will, whatever it is. Our goal is to discover this and then follow. I know you are using your talents for His glory, and helping many along the way. God bless you.

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